In the 21st century, we are used to a globe which is increasingly ‘One World’ rather than the tradition view of many small worlds co-existing on one planet. As technology breaks down geographical barriers, we can share ideas and see what’s happening in distant countries like never before.
A quick google search can reveal the very worst environmental disasters in the country of your choice. Poaching, agricultural mono-cultures, plastic buildup in the oceans, melting ice caps, colossal wildfires, loss of habitat, climate change and extinction are just a few of the issues you can find current evidence of on the web.
But when trying to do something to stop these horrors from continuing, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Human cultures, businesses and governments have developed over decades to work in certain ways, and that’s before you even touch on what someone views as their ‘heritage’. This means that when trying to persuade people to change what they are doing for the sake of the environment, it takes time and is usually anything but straightforward.
Of course most of us aren’t even in a position to be directly addressing those in other countries, so constantly seeing the problems facing the global environment can leave you feeling helpless and add to eco-anxiety. But there is one very important thing all of us can do that could actually be the best way to persuade others to change their ways – start at home.
How it helps you
Doing something for nature at home can help the health of the ‘planet’, but it can also directly help us.
Currently, the Coronavirus lockdown means that we are all restricted to our homes and immediate area. But the actions below can keep you active, keep you thinking (linked to mindfulness) and keep you gardening. All positive things that will help us through the weeks ahead.
Positive thinking, of any kind, is so important for everyone at this time isolation. If we all practice ‘conservation from home’, actions that help the environment will add to our positive mindsets that will in turn help each of us get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting at home: The United Kingdom
All the problems I listed above of environmental disasters can be found right on my doorstep in the UK. So before we look at other countries, it could be better to focus on our own problems first.
If we all work together to improve our local patch and we record the benefits, this could be the most effective way of persuading others of the reasons why we should all want to protect natural environments from human activities. This in turn could have a truly global effect.
Another benefit from starting at home is that what happens in the UK affects other countries and habitats already, so by doing your little bit you can help huge change happen.
Here are a few of our issues and how you can help
- Plastic pollution, slowly breaking down
Every time you see a plastic bottle on a footpath, imagine where each particle of that bottle will end up. If that bottle stays on the footpath, it will slowly break down into smaller pieces of plastic as well as the chemicals that were used to produce it. When it rains, the water either washes these chemicals deeper into the soil, or into local streams.
If there is one plastic bottle on each footpath in the UK, that’s a lot of chemicals entering the stream systems that eventually merge into rivers and the ocean beyond. There is evidence that such chemicals are one of the causes of whale poisoning and potentially increased still birth.
If on each walk during self-isolation (or after self-isolation is over) we all picked up one plastic bottle to recycle, imagine the positive impact that would have for wildlife. It would also add to our own sustainable future to re-use plastic, glass and metal rather than leaving it in landfill or polluting wild environments.
- Ordering items online
Don’t get me wrong, ordering items online is questionably more important than ever right now as is not the issue. It’s more to do with where the item comes from. It’s very easy online not to check the country of origin when ordering online and there are many purchases to be made from far away lands such as South East Asia, America and vice versa.
The cost in fuel to get that item to your front door adds harmful gases into the atmosphere that reduce air quality and increase the green house effect that adds to global warming.
A quick check of the sending location before you buy can prevent this – the internet is a powerful and incredibly useful tool. You can always check to find a similar item that is not being sent from as far away. If each household did this, it would reduce the pressure on flying and shipping products and the fuel that gets them here.
- Loss of habitat
Since the second world war, the British countryside has changed beyond recognition. To combat prolonged food shortages, focus was moved to mass-production when it came to food. Gradually this meant a loss of open-pasture, hedgerows and drinking pools for cattle to create maximum space for food production.
The wildlife that had been using these places for their homes was therefore quickly removed. Some species (such as the turtle dove and great yellow bumblebee, are paying the ultimate price for this and have nearly become extinct in the UK.
As we start to change the way we farm the land, gardens can be an essential oasis. If each person designed their garden to have the biggest affect for wildlife (which doesn’t mean letting nature take over either), wild species will be able to hold on until we return the countryside to a more wildlife friendly place.
The best gardens for wildlife have a little bit of everything: mowed grass, long grass, shrubs, trees, flower beds, ponds, rock pile, compost heap. And you don’t have to have a big garden to achieve this – even the smallest of gardens can provide a large number of different places for animals and plants to live.
- Record the wildlife
Recording the wildlife you see in the garden can be crucial to future conservationists. Writing down each day a simple thing like the maximum number of blue tits you see at any one time can give a good picture of the ‘state of nature’. I’ll be going throuhg how you can record your local wildlife in a future blog.
Next Time – Recycling
In next weeks blog I’ll be discussing how to get smart with recycling to maximise the potential of a sustainable future. Until then stay safe and enjoy nature.